Letter from the Publisher

June 2008

Welcome to the June issue of The Digital Journalist, the monthly online magazine for visual journalism.

As many of our viewers may have noticed, we have been incrementally improving our site over the past few months.

Three weeks ago, photographer James Whitlow Delano was able to make it out of Myanmar with an exclusive series of photographs of the catastrophic damage from a cyclone that claimed, by some accounts, more than 80,000 victims. We felt that this story was so important that we should not wait for our normal monthly publication cycle to post it.

We have always been proud of our ability to turn on a dime journalistically, but also to offer high editorial standards that come with a regular, scheduled publication. Thanks to our new flexible layout, created by Dina Richards, we can now do both. You will also note that we implemented a new "Comments" section after every story. We welcome your responses.

Our cover feature this month, "A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties," observes the 40th anniversary of RFK's assassination, and the national hopes and dreams that died with him. A young LIFE photographer, Bill Eppridge, had been assigned to the Kennedy campaign, and was with him on the euphoric evening he claimed victory in the California primary. A few minutes later, Kennedy was lying on the kitchen floor of the Ambassador Hotel, his life ebbing away. Bill's harrowing photograph remains the definitive image of that traumatic moment in our history.

RFK's assassination was the culmination of several profoundly wrenching events in 1968. Like the death that year of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, America was at a crossroads from which it would later emerge in an almost unrecognizable form.

We present a gallery of Bill Eppridge's photographs of Bobby Kennedy's final, ill-fated, campaign, along with his recollections of how those winds of change affected us all. Bobbi Baker Burrows, who was his picture editor at LIFE, offers us a unique insight into Bill's work throughout the tumultuous Sixties.

Sadly, photojournalism lost two more giants this month. Cornell Capa, who created and directed the International Center for Photography in New York, passed away after a long illness. Also, Flip Schulke, who photographed the civil rights movement in the Sixties and wrote a photo biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., died in his Florida home. Editor-at-Large Peter Howe recalls the legacy of Cornell Capa, while Contributing Editor and photo historian Marianne Fulton provides a look back at Flip Schulke and his contributions.

Photojournalists, like authors, depend on copyright to preserve and protect their work so that they can continue to draw income for its use. However, in the new world of the Web, many forces are converging that would deprive the creators of ownership of their work. There is currently a bill before Congress that would classify many of these works as "orphaned" – meaning that after a cursory check, users would be able to appropriate these works if they were unable to locate the author. This would be a devastating setback to creators, as we explain in our editorial this month.

Executive Editor Ron Steinman critiques the controversial new film about prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, "Standard Operating Procedure," bringing to bear his lifetime of documentary production expertise.

This month we have three Dispatches: Adam Dean covers the earthquake in China, David Bathgate goes to Checkpoint Delta in Afghanistan with American soldiers and, in Iran Ali Shirjian considers the importance of a now-sacred battleground of the Iran-Iraq War.

E-Bits Editor Beverly Spicer discusses synchronicity, chain reactions and reality that seems like magic, all favorite fodder for physicists and photojournalists alike. The key to survival in an ever-changing industry in an ever-changing world is to be like the platypus, natural's foremost expert on adaptability.

Is it possible that there is a genetic predisposition that makes us journalists? Something, maybe, in our DNA that says "document or die"? Eileen Douglas did some research and it looks like there may be some validity to that notion. Read what she has to say on that subject in "A Reporter's Life: Will There Be Blood? Hmmm...." You can find it in this month's Assignment Sheet.

Dick Kraus has another "Through a Lens Dimly" recollection about some of the people we meet in the course of one's career. It's called "In the Presence of Greatness," and it's the first in a series.

As always, be sure to check out your regular columnists, Bill Pierce, Mark Loundy, PF Bentley, Terry Heaton, Chuck Westfall and Jim Colburn.

This month, we are adding two new photojournalists to our masthead. Up until now, we have only listed two, David and Peter Turnley, who have been major contributors to our issues since our start in 1997. The title of Contributing Photographer is nothing to be taken lightly. As our readers know, The Digital Journalist is constantly featuring stories by the best photojournalists in the business. To become a masthead Contributing Photographer, there needs to be a history of contributions to the magazine. This honor is by invitation only, and is rarely implemented. It gives us great pleasure, therefore, to announce two new photojournalists who will join the Turnleys on our masthead.

Steve Simon contributed a major feature on AIDS in Africa to the magazine. Canadian-born, Steve has devoted much of his time to telling the stories of crucial humanitarian issues. He is a spokesman for Apple's "Aperture" software. In 2004, he published a book about the GOP National Convention called "The Republicans." This summer he will be covering both the Democratic and Republican Conventions for us. For an appreciation of Steve's work, read a feature by Marianne Fulton: http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0611/simon.html.

James Whitlow Delano is a hybrid of photojournalist and fine-art photographer. He only works with one camera, a Leica, and only shoots black-&-white film. Based in Tokyo, James has contributed two major black-&-white essays to The Digital Journalist:

"Taming the Yellow Dragon" from our May 2007 issue [http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0705/delano_intro.html] and "Empire: Impressions from China" from January 2005 [http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0501/delano.html]. Last month, he was one of a few western photojournalists who managed to cover the aftermath of the deadly cyclone in Burma. For an appreciation of James' work, read the column by Don Winslow: http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0705/one-world-one-lens.html.

We welcome both Steve and James to our masthead as Contributing Photographers.

We hope you enjoy this issue, and urge you to participate in our new comments areas.

Dirck Halstead
Editor and Publisher